For 7 years fingerprints on pieces of broken glass found near the body of Mark Howard Hall sat unidentified in the Orange County Sheriff’s Department crime lab.
But at the Randy Steven Kraft murder trial this week, two Orange County fingerprint experts, each in charge of one of those unidentified prints, testified that the prints matched Kraft’s right thumbprint.
Kraft, 43, is charged with 16 Orange County murders, including Hall’s. Because of the fingerprint identification, prosecutors consider Hall’s case one of their strongest.
Hall was a 22-year-old Santa Ana man last seen the night of New Year’s Eve, 1975, when he and co-workers were at a friend’s house in San Juan Capistrano, two blocks from Interstate 5. One of the friends, Phil Holmer, testified Monday that Hall passed out drunk on a couch while the others played poker in another room. In the early morning hours of New Year’s Day, they discovered that he was gone.
Hall’s body was found 2 days later by a man in a group of dune buggy riders by Bedford Peak, near the end of Silverado Canyon Road. The glass shards were from a vodka bottle found in the area.
The unidentified fingerprints were re-examined after Kraft’s arrest on May 14, 1983, when investigators believed he may have been responsible for many previous unsolved murders of young men in Orange County.
Edward F. Carson and Wilbur Anderson, Orange County Sheriff’s Department identification experts, each testified that they found enough similarities between the prints on the vodka bottle pieces and prints taken from Kraft after his arrest to satisfy them that Kraft’s prints were on the bottle.
Kraft attorney James G. Merwin had few questions for either expert. But he told the court that he expected to question both of them more thoroughly at a later time.
On Tuesday, Deputy Dist. Atty. Bryan F. Brown, showed jurors two prints side by side, one from Kraft after his arrest and the other from the vodka bottle.
“Just so the jurors can understand, let’s make it clear which one of these is from Mr. Kraft,” Brown said.
Anderson looked at Brown in surprise.
“Why, they both are,” Anderson replied.
Brown introduced a third piece of evidence in the Hall murder case: blood matching Hall’s blood type was found on the bottle too.
Defense attorneys in earlier motions had argued that even if Kraft’s prints were on the glass, how could anyone know the bottle had been taken to the area the same time Hall had died.
Prosecutors also contend that the entry “New Year’s Eve"--found in Kraft’s car at the time of his arrest on a list that they claim is his score card of his victims--stands for Hall’s death.